Animals play an important role in the lives of humans, providing both psychological and physiological benefits. However, interactions with animals can pose a risk for zoonoses, leading to infection and diseases. Zoonotic diseases are a group of infectious diseases that are naturally transmitted between animals and humans. The greatest risk for zoonotic disease transmission occurs at the human-animal interface through direct or indirect human exposure to animals, their products and/or their environments. More than 60% of the newly identified infectious agents that have affected humans over the past few decades have been caused by pathogens originating from animals or animal products. Seventy percent of these zoonotic infections originate from wildlife. In addition, a number of well known and preventable zoonoses continue to occur in many countries, especially in the developing world where they mostly affect the poorest segment of human society.
In this context, some are transmissible to humans through food, through bites from infected mammals and insects (vector) or via environmental contamination. Especially, people who have close contact to animals, can be at increased risk for zoonotic diseases. Additionally, individuals with weakened immune systems, can also be at increased risk. The emergence of zoonotic disease is complex and multifactorial, driven by factors which include evolving ecology, microbial adaptation, human demographics and behaviour, international travel and trade, agricultural practices, technology and industry.
Main research topics of the working group are: morphological and genetically identification of parasites and pathogens, prevalence of parasites/ pathogens in animal populations, characterization of means of transmission, the identification of parasite life cycles and cycles of infection, the epidemiology of zoonotic diseases and the development of models of infection. Interdisciplinary cooperation (human/ veterinary medicine and biosciences) guarantees best mission and patient orientated research approaches and solutions.